Swedish Lawmakers File Suit Accusing Erdogan of Genocide

If local prosecutors decide to launch a probe as a result of the suit, Turkey's president may face an arrest warrant in Sweden

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a rally of supporters a day after a referendum widened his powers, Ankara, Turkey, April 17, 2017.
Burhan Ozbilici/AP

Five Swedish lawmakers have filed a legal complaint accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast, AFP reported on Monday.

The complaint, filed by lawmakers from the Left and Green parties, alludes to the conflict between Turkish forces and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which escalated since the collapse of a fragile truce in 2015.

According to the lawmakers, Erdogan may face an arrest warrant in Sweden if local prosecutors decide to launch an investigation. Carl Schlyter, one of the lawmakers who filed the complaint, said he hoped his counterparts in other European countries would follow suit. 

"If (Erdogan) is hindered from roaming around in Europe and influencing European countries the way he wants, then I hope that this will affect his politics," AFP quoted him as saying.

Several Turkish ministers have recently been barred from attending political events in Europe amid strains ties between the EU and Ankara. Also on Monday, Austria blocked a minister from visiting an event marking the anniversary of last year's failed coup. Earlier this year, the Netherlands made a similar move when it rejected ministers seeking to address Turks living in Europe ahead of a vote on constitutional changes in Turkey.

The suit against Erdogan is the first of its kind to be filed against a head of state in Sweden. A Swedish law passed in 2014 permits judges to review alleged crimes against humanity anywhere in the world, regardless of who committed them. The law specifies that "anyone, who in order to completely or partially destroy a national or ethnic group of people" kills, causes serious pain or injury is "guilty of genocide."

The PKK launched its insurgency in Hakkari province in 1984 and over 40,000 people, mostly Kurds, have died in the fighting since then. It first wanted an independent homeland for Turkey's estimated 15 million Kurds but has scaled that back to more political rights for the region.